In feudal times in Japan, there were
various military arts and exercises which the samurai classes were trained and fitted for their special form of warfare. Amongst these was the art of jujutsu, from which the present judo has sprung up. The word jujutsu may be translated freely as "the art of gaining victory by yielding or pliancy." Originally, the name seems to have been applied to what may best be described as the art of fighting without weapons, although in some cases short weapons were used against opponents fighting with long weapons. Although it seems to resemble wrestling, yet it differs materially from wrestling as practiced in England, its main principle being not to match strength with strength, but to gain victory by yielding to strength.

In tracing the history of the art, we are met at the outset with difficulties which are not uncommon in similar researches--the unreliableness of much of the literature of the art. Printed books on the subject are scarce, and while there are innumerable manuscripts belonging to various schools of the art, many of them are contradictory and unsatisfactory. The originators of new schools seem often times to have made history to suit their own purposes, and thus the materials for a consistent and clear account of the origin and rise of jujutsu are very scanty. In early times, the knowledge of the history and the art was in the possession of the teachers of the various schools, who handed down information to their pupils as a secret in order to give it a sacred appearance. Moreover, the seclusion of one province from another, as a consequence of the Feudal System of Japan, prevented much acquaintance between teachers and pupils of the various schools, and thus contrary and often contradictory accounts of its history were handed down and believed. Further, it is to be noted that the interest of its students was devoted more to success in the practice of the art than to a knowledge of its rise and progress in the country.